This was a bit mid range at $3.00 but being a hockey fan, I thought I should check it out. Also maybe to try and get some of the Chicago people I know on the blog bandwagon. Organ music at sports events is kind of a lost art form. I remember it enough at sporting events when I was a kid but it was just starting to compete with pre-taped songs. It was the beginning of the end of an era which to my knowledge is pretty much dead now. I mean, I think some stadiums still have organs but they are used sparingly as a mere gesture to days gone by.
Chicago Stadium, built in 1929 and demolished in 1994, was the home of the Blackhawks for all years of its existence (It also housed the Bulls since 1967). I should point out here what little fruit was reaped during those years as the Edmonton Oilers won more cups in less than 10 years than the Hawks during their complete tenure in Chicago Stadium. However, I am sure I will get reminded about the Hawk’s recent history as well as how well the Oilers are doing now.
More history on the stadium
Very much an old school stadium, it the last arena to use an analog score clock. It was also known as one of the loudest arenas in hockey due to its shape. This was also due to what was the world’s largest theatre pipe organ according to both Wikipedia and the album cover.
Built by Barton, it consisted of 40,000 pipes, 883 stops, and six manual keyboards (according to the back cover as Wikipedia and most other sources say 3,663 pipes). There is a popular story about how during a riot after a boxing match, the organ player opened most of the stops, cranked up the volume, and blasted the middle keys. The result was a fury of sound that blew out most of the lights, thus causing people to leave and quelling the riot.
A Link to more information on the organ
Page from the Pipe Organ Database
The man behind the keys that night was the subject of this album, Al Melgard, the Melancholy Dane. Born in Denmark, he came to Chicago with his family when he was six months old. In 1930, he became the third and most well known organist in the history of the stadium, despite losing his left index finger. With a list in his head of over 1,000 songs, he was one of the first to match songs with on ice occurrences. For example, when King Clancy was refereeing, Melgard would play “Clancy Lowered the Boom” when he made calls. He also played “Three Blind Mice” whenever the officials would take to the ice, a move that greatly angered Clarence Campbell. (inevitably, Campbell put the brakes on this). A very popular figure, he retired in 1974 and died in a nursing home in Las Vegas in 1977 at age 88.
As far as the organ, upon closure, it was bought and put in a club for a while until the owner moved it to Arizona. A warehouse fire destroyed some of the owners other Barton’s, but it would appear the stadium console survived. According to undated sources, it is currently in the Las Vegas home of property magnate, Phillip Maloof.
Link to the Organ restoration
This album, released in 1958, is a collection of simple tunes played on the great organ by Melgard. Apparently the sound of wind thru the pipes made recording difficult. Anyway, other than the US service songs and “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”, the rest of the melodies are from a bygone era. But despite not knowing the songs, this is a decent piece of history and an interesting collection of sound. It would probably sound better live but those days have past. I believe this and three more records Melgard put out sold well.
For a sample, I was really torn. I really liked “Asleep in the Deep” with its aquatic tones. I also thought “Butcher Boy” was a more traditional stadium piece and had a gone range of tones. Then I was torn between the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the “Marine Hymn”. Posting anything over four songs is sloth to me but I am sure this is out of print, so for historical reasons, here is all four songs.
Satisfactory enough record.